Yesterday the city celebrated Jerusalem Day. Another Israeli national holiday that follows an already long list of holidays that run in quick succession over the course of the spring: Holocaust Memorial Day, National Memorial Day, Israeli Independence Day – each one more overtly political than then next, each ensuring that a founding element of the Zionistic narrative is entrenched into the Israeli psyche.
So yesterday the city thronged with flag-waving crowds, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. Yet Jerusalem, from my eyes, still remains a divided city – Jews in the West, Arabs in the East, with a million miles seperating their worlds; there is no unified Jerusalem.
While there are plenty of blog posts out there documenting the marches and the unpleasant racist/nationalist chants (Watch: Jerusalem Day’s racist march, escorted by police), I thought I’d rather share these two poems by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai that caught my eye (thanks to @JessicaMontell) and kind of sum up the sense of history in this frustrating yet enchanting city.
Jerusalem is Full of Tired Jews
Jerusalem is full of used Jews, worn out by history, Jews are secondhand, slightly damaged, at bargain prices. And the eyes yearns toward Zion all the time. And all the eyes of the living and the dead are cracked like eggs on the rim of the bowl, to make the city puff up rich and fat.
Jerusalem is full of tired Jews, always goaded on again for holidays, for memorial days, like circus bears dancing on aching legs.
What does Jerusalem need? It doesn’t need a mayor, it needs a ringmaster, whip in hand, who can tame prophecies, train prophets to gallop around and around in a circle, teach its stones to line up in a bold, risky formation for the grand finale
Later they’ll jump back down again to the sound of applause and wars.
And the eye yearns toward Zion, and weeps.
Ecology of Jerusalem
The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams like the air over industrial cities. It’s hard to breathe.
And from time to time a new shipment of history arrives and the houses and the towers are its packing materials.
Later these are discarded and pile up in dumps.
And sometimes candles arrive instead of people, and then it’s quiet. And then sometimes people come instead of candles, and then there’s noise.
And in enclosed gardens heavy with the jasmine foreign consulates, like wicked brides that have been rejected, lie in wait for their moment.